Lindsay Smith/ The Paisano
Although UTSA is a smoke-free campus, students are still smoking in corners, on rooftops and along railways, prompting questions about the effectiveness of the policy.
On June 1, 2013 UTSA began a ‘transition phase’ for the smoking policy on campus. This transition period was supported by research from other universities showing that a transition phase facilitates change in behavior and culture.
During this transition period – which is currently in effect – smoking is only permitted on certain surface parking lots.
The exceptions on the Main Campus include the Ximenes Avenue Lot, Ford Avenue Lot, and Laurel Village lot. These temporary smoking areas will be eliminated on June 1, 2014- exactly one year after the transition period began- and thus UTSA will become a tobacco-free and smoke-free campus.
However, it appears that many students are either unclear about or indifferent to the current rules regarding smoking. One student, who was smoking along the rail between the McKinney Humanities Building and the Business Building, confessed to smoking between 4-6 cigarettes daily on campus when not in class.
“I just follow the people, if I see a crowd smoking then I know it’s okay to smoke,” said freshman Ahmed Albattah in between drags.
Ironically, in the area where Ahmed and several other students were smoking, a “Tobacco-free” banner draped over the rail.
According to the UTSA Handbook of Operating Procedures, the smoking policy consists of a series of exceptions and guidelines. It specifies the prohibition of smoking in university-owned buildings and vehicles, but allows it outside any non-CPRIT (Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas) building as long as it is 20 feet or more from the entryway, doorway or common path of travel.
This set of guidelines, however, is no longer in effect during the transition phase. This lack of updated information on the university’s website could be responsible for the frequent smoking behavior seen around campus.
“Maybe a pledge would be helpful or a letter of commitment when first enrolling in UTSA,” suggested Professor Rita Linard. An ensemble director and assistant professor of flute at UTSA, Linard has seen students smoking on numerous occasions right outside the Arts Building.
“Obviously what we are doing to enforce this is not working. As vocalists we are very concerned when we see our students smoking. It’s not good for their lungs.”
Linard is a cancer survivor and sensitive to second-hand smoke. She is one of the many faculty and staff members affected by this lack of compliance.
The journey to becoming a tobacco-free and smoke-free campus began with requests made to University President Ricardo Romo from staff and faculty members.
Enforcement of the policy has been designated as a shared responsibility of the UTSA community. According to the Handbook of Operating Procedures, “It is the shared responsibility of all members of the campus community to respect and abide by this policy.” Enforcement by UTSAPD has not yet begun. This expected voluntary compliance has yielded low results.